By Fiona Grahame
For anyone bored now with Brexit negotiations – or the lack of them – it is now time to pay attention for time is wearing on towards the day the UK will leave the EU.
The latest announcement from 10 Downing Street that the UK will also leave the Customs Union should start to make not just those involved in business but all of us very concerned.
Let us lay aside (for the time being) that Scotland voted substantially to Remain in the EU at 62% but is being taken out anyway and turn our attention to the Customs Union.
What is the Customs Union?
A customs union is “a group of states that have agreed to charge the same import duties as each other and usually to allow free trade between themselves.”
The UK is part of the single market of the EU until it leaves on the 29th March 2019 – no deal has yet actually been agreed. Any one of the other nations of the EU and there’s 27 of them can still veto any deal.
Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man – none of whom are in the EU – are in the European customs union. The EU also has customs unions in separate agreements for some goods with Andorra, San Marino and Turkey. In addition the EU has trade agreements with other countries for instance Canada – CETA. The agreements the EU makes for trade with other countries it negotiates as one. It can take years ( 7 years for CETA) but it then applies to all its members.
For the movement of goods inside a customs union there are no customs duties imposed on them. For goods coming into the customs union there is a shared tariff.
The minority UK Government has decided that when we leave the EU and its single market that we will also leave the customs union. No longer will our goods be free of customs duties within the remaining European Customs Union. And for imports – the UK has so far agreed no trade agreement of any kind with the EU.
The UK will have removed itself from all other trade agreements it was part of as a member state of the EU.
Take some time in your local supermarket and look at for instance the fresh fruit and veg:- all the countries those come from that are in the EU moving around without customs duties and all the additional paper work and hold up time at border checks that will now be required. You might say – well we can do without them – maybe if we had been preparing the way for years so that we had the means to grow more of them, but not in a matter of months. Or you may say – they need us more than we need them – note, there are 27 of them – they can manage fine and have been preparing for the UK to leave.
If you are not in the Customs Union you will certainly have a hard border between the UK and the EU. That means a hard border in Northern Ireland will be imposed. Completely contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. Putting at risk the economy of Northern Ireland, where people also voted to Remain in the EU. A hard border will also be required between Spain and Gibraltar, who voted to Remain by 96%.
If the part of the UK which is England and that which is Wales desires to leave the EU and the European Customs Union then good luck to them. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are actually in agreement with each other over this. It could be that the UK becoming a tax haven will be the result of their endeavours. For the rest of the UK – including Gibraltar – we do not need to leave.
Greenland, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark (Greenland: Self-Governing Island) left the EU in 1985. The Reverse Greenland option was put forward by the First Minister of Scotland in 2016 which experts at the time deemed ‘implausible’. Of course that was before the 27 countries of the EU realised what the negotiating stance of the UK Government would be. Reverse Greenland would allow England and Wales to leave and the rest of the UK including Gibraltar to remain in.
The other option for Scotland in particular would be to have another independence referendum and seek to dissolve its union with rUK. It could then negotiate for itself entering EFTA (European Free Trade Association), the EEA (European Economic Area) or the EU. All of which the UK Government have rejected being a part of.
Time to wake up and take notice. This will affect you. It will affect the food you can eat and the food you can afford to eat. It will affect the quality fish and meat our farmers and fishermen sell. The increased administration, the duties they will have to pay and the hold up time as they wait at a border point to get into the EU. If they seek to sell those products world wide they will encounter those same issues as the UK has no trade agreements as a non EU state and it cannot make any until it has left the EU.
And always remember – Scotland voted for none of this.